By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
Sometimes, the best way to help yourself is to serve others.
If you are thinking of becoming a volunteer to serve your community, Greater Cleveland Volunteers has a list of reasons to help you make up your mind. In its recruiting materials, the organization lists 10 reasons why volunteering can lead to a healthier you.
First of all, volunteering reduces stress, while moods and emotions like optimism, joy and control over one’s fate strengthen the immune system. Volunteering provides valuable community services, so more money can be spent on local improvements. Volunteers gain professional experience. The act of volunteering unites people from diverse backgrounds working towards a common goal. Understanding community helps foster empathy and builds self-esteem.
As a volunteer, you support families through daycare and eldercare, improve schools and literacy by tutoring, support youth through mentoring and after-school programs, and beautify the community. Volunteers discover hidden talents, learn about the function and importance of government, and gain knowledge of the resources available to solve community needs. Volunteers get a chance to give back by supporting resources that they use themselves. Volunteerism is an investment in the community and it reinforces the idea that every person counts.
Kirsten Frei-Herrmann, program director for Greater Cleveland Volunteers, said that even more volunteers are needed post-pandemic. “From our experience, volunteer actions have declined since the start of the pandemic. Many individuals have stepped away from serving, or the positions they used to do are no longer available,” she noted. “Many organizations are looking at ways of rebuilding their volunteer programs so that they can continue to offer the services that the community relies on.”
She said that more volunteers are needed across the board with many tasks. “In some cases, nonprofit staff have had to take on additional responsibilities that were previously done by volunteers. That generally causes a change in delivering their services or providing additional services to the community,” she explained.
Some people who retired during the pandemic are going back to work. “Due to the current economic situation, some people are returning to the workforce. Many individuals who are able to volunteer are looking for flexible opportunities that work with their busy lifestyle,” according to Frei-Herrmann.
“Volunteers are needed in a variety of areas. The most needed issue areas include hunger, tutoring to help overcome the learning loss exacerbated by the pandemic, and helping isolated older adults receive healthy meals through food pantries and making and delivering food to client homes. Volunteers can do good and feel good in the process,” she said.
Joy Banish, executive director of Greater Cleveland Volunteers added, “Greater Cleveland Volunteers partners with more than 80 nonprofit agencies in Cuyahoga County. We communicate often with them regarding their volunteer needs and what they are witnessing with the decline in people offering their time since the pandemic. We are offering our assistance to help them reshape their volunteer programs.”
To connect with volunteering opportunities in Cuyahoga County, contact Greater Cleveland Volunteers at 216.391.9500 or visit www.greaterclevelandvolunteers.org.
Volunteering benefits your community and positively impacts your health
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN